Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Egan graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory. He served in the United States Army as a judo instructor during World War II. A graduate of the University of San Francisco (B.A., 1943) and Stanford University (M.A.), he studied and taught at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, for a time. Having studied theatre, he took a bit role in the 1949 Hollywood film The Story of Molly X.
This start would lead to his signing of a contract with 20th Century Fox where his talent, rugged physique, and good looks made him a favorite and respected leading man.
In 1956, he starred as Elvis Presley's older brother in Presley's first film, Love Me Tender, and in 1959 was the male lead opposite Dorothy McGuire in A Summer Place. He co-starred with Jane Russell in two of her last films, Underwater! and The Revolt of Mamie Stover.
In 1960, Egan appeared with Jane Wyman and Hayley Mills in Disney's Pollyanna. He also starred as Ahasuerus in Esther and the King. Other noteworthy films include Undercover Girl (1950), Split Second (1953), Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), The View from Pompey's Head (1955), Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957), Voice In The Mirror, about the man who started Alcoholics Anonymous, The 300 Spartans (1962), The Big Cube (1969), and Moonfire (1970).
Egan was Rod Serling's first choice to narrate The Twilight Zone, because of his distinctive voice. However, contractual issues got in the way, and Serling narrated instead, rather than select any actor other than his first choice.
During the decade of the 1960s, Egan worked extensively in television, starring in the NBC western dramatic series, Empire, which aired from September 25, 1962 to December 31, 1963. In the shortened second season, the program was renamed Redigo after Egan's character, ranch manager Jim Redigo.
After his series ended, he made guest appearances on other television shows and acted in several motion pictures for the big screen plus in films made specifically for television. In 1982 he joined the cast for the new daytime television political drama Capitol.
Egan met his wife, the former Patricia Hardy, in 1956. The couple married in June 1958 and remained together for almost thirty years until his death. They had five children, including son Rich Egan, the founder of Vagrant Records, daughter Maureen Egan, a writer and director, as well as Patricia, Kathleen, and Colleen.
Egan was respected within the acting community for having helped a number of young actors get their first break in the film industry. One of these young actors was Ryan O'Neal. He worked out at the same gym as Egan, who got him credited work in four episodes of Empire.
Richard Egan died in Los Angeles, California, on July 20, 1987, of prostate cancer, nine days before his 66th birthday. He is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.The Good Humor Man (1950)
The Damned Don't Cry! (1950)
The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)
Highway 301 (1950)
Bright Victory (1951)
The Golden Horde (1951)
Hollywood Story (1951)
One Minute to Zero (1952)
The Devil Makes Three (1952)
Blackbeard the Pirate (1952)
Split Second (1953)
Wicked Woman (1953)
The Glory Brigade (1953)
Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
Khyber Patrol (1954)
Violent Saturday (1955)
The View from Pompey's Head (1955)
Seven Cities of Gold (1955)
Tension at Table Rock (1956)
The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
Love Me Tender (1956)
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957)
The Hunters (1958)
Voice in the Mirror (1958)
These Thousand Hills (1959)
A Summer Place (1959)
Pollyanna (1960) - Doctor Edmond Chilton
Esther and the King (1960)
The 300 Spartans (1962)
The Big Cube (1969)
The House That Would Not Die (1970) (TV movie)
The Day of the Wolves (1971)
The Amsterdam Kill (1977)